Spurt in cold and flu cases, symptoms lasting longer than usual, say doctors

By, Bengaluru
Feb 09, 2023 12:35 AM IST

With no restrictions in place and travel and socialising back in full swing, doctors said there is an unusual trend in the rise in cold and flu cases, especially after Covid.

Doctors in Bengaluru are noticing a spurt in cold and flu cases over the last two months, with symptoms lasting longer than usual.

Doctors in Bengaluru are noticing a spurt in cold and flu cases over the last two months, with symptoms lasting longer than usual. (PTI)
Doctors in Bengaluru are noticing a spurt in cold and flu cases over the last two months, with symptoms lasting longer than usual. (PTI)

With no restrictions in place and travel and socialising back in full swing, doctors said there is an unusual trend in the rise in cases, especially after Covid.

Dr Sunil Kumar Dodderi, epidemiologist and public health specialist, said while there is a rise in cold and flu cases recently, the severity is less. “Most of the symptoms subside quickly, but the cough is persistent for a longer duration than one week-two week, sometimes more than two weeks. The trend of long-lasting cough is more after Covid.”

Dr Aditya S Chowti, senior consultant of internal medicine at Fortis Hospital, said there is a definitive rise in cold and flu cases in Bengaluru. “There is an unusual trend in the rise in the number of cases, probably because Bengaluru has been having some treacherous weather changes over the past one or two months. However, I would like to note that the severity is not too much. They are most likely flu-like illnesses,” Dr Chowti said.

Dr Chowti pointed out that these infections are recurring, with patients coming in with the same complaints again.

“This is the unusual trend going around in the past two months. The symptoms are also lasting longer than usual. You could say this is a trend we are seeing after Covid.”

Dr Basavaraj Kuntoji, consultant of internal medicine at Manipal Hospital, said that as a physician, he sees about three to four patients every day in the age group of 18-60 who present with symptoms of fever, throat pain, cough, body pain, and weakness.

“Although most of these patients test negative for Covid-19 and Influenza, very few turn out to be influenza positive. A persistent cough can remain for up to two weeks and may be spreading to family members. But luckily, this doesn’t need hospitalisation and can be prevented with certain measures,” Dr Kuntoji added.

Dr Subrata Das, senior consultant, of internal medicine and diabetology, at Sakra World Hospital, said for the past two to three weeks, there have been 10 to 12 flu cases per day.

“The majority of these patients have fevers and exhibit symptoms including runny noses, wheezing, stuffiness, and nausea. Covid is currently negative, and the positivity rate in the 15 to 20 influenza-like illnesses and about 20 to 30% were positive for influenza A,” Dr Das said.

Meanwhile, Dr Neha Mishra, consultant of infectious diseases at Manipal Hospital, said that viral illnesses like flu and influenza are generally prevalent during monsoon and colder seasons.

“But in tropical countries like India, it can prevail around the year. Hence the seasonal changes and patterns of flu observed in other parts of the world may not be very clear. Bengaluru being a colder place than other cities in India, flu-like illnesses can occur at any time of the year.”

“Although the number of cases may seem slightly higher, it’s likely due to increased awareness and people seeking medical help more often than usual, when they fall sick, which is a good trend and can reduce complications associated with these illnesses,” Dr Mishra said.

In the case of the pediatric population, Dr Yogesh Kumar Gupta, a consultant paediatrician at Fortis Hospital, said they are seeing a two-threefold rise in flu cases between the age group of 1-10 years predominantly.

“I have consulted around 20-30 cases of cold, cough and fever in the last two months. As per the history and when tested, 30-40% of them are turning out to be Influenza A/B positive. It is a little unusual, but their symptoms are taking a little longer to settle compared to earlier,” Dr Gupta said.

Dr Sundar C Ingaleshwar, consultant and paediatric intensivist at Manipal Hospital, said children below five years of age and particularly below two years are more susceptible to seasonal flu infections as they lack immunity against them.

“Flu attacks vary in severity each season. This season we have encountered a greater number of viral flu infections caused by RSV, adenovirus and rhinovirus infections, which varied from simple cough cold and fever to severe pneumonia landing children in ICU.”

Dr Leenatha Reddy N, consultant of paediatrics and neonatology at Kinder Women’s Hospital and Fertility Centre, said anyone could get the flu but infection rates are highest among children (20-30% annually), especially those less than five years old.

“This is mainly because of weaker immune systems and lack of appropriate hand hygiene, lack of vaccine for infants less than 6-month-old etc.”

Dr Mishra said the spike in illnesses could also be attributed to a little bit of laxity in the safety measures people were following during the pandemic. “The preventive measures followed back then also reduced the transmission of other viruses.”

Epidemiologist and public health specialist, Dr Dodderi attributed it to new pathogens and air pollution. “Reasons could be new pathogens which need research. Another reason could be air pollution. Air pollution is one of the precipitating factors for respiratory infections. It is one of the triggering factors for asthma, an influenza-like illness. Another reason is, because of covid, other viruses were snubbed, and now they are emerging again,” Dr Dodderi said.

Dr Gupta said that now that there has undoubtedly been a change in flu patterns, the reason could be a change in virulence of the virus, as there was not much exposure for the last two years and a change in the immune pattern of susceptible individuals.

Advising precautions, doctors said it is crucial to avoid crowded places, travel if not necessary, practice good hand and respiratory hygiene, and seek medical advice if symptoms persist for more than two days.

“To prevent the spread of illness, it’s crucial to avoid crowded places and travel if not necessary, wear masks while going out or have people around with symptoms, and practice good hygiene and healthy habits. I encourage anyone experiencing these symptoms to seek medical attention if not feeling better in a day or two,” Dr Kuntoji said.

“Flu vaccines are available to children, which will protect against most influenza strains, reducing the severity of infections in children. Restricting children to home isolation and early treatment can reduce the spread of infections, particularly at schools,” Dr Ingaleshwar said.

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